tv Meet the Press MSNBC March 21, 2011 2:00am-3:00am EDT
enfranchisement of their people for the united states to move away. that would be a denial of everything we supported in egypt, everything we've supported in tunisia, everything we support every single day with respect to democracy and freedom. >> senator sessions, i want to ask one other question before i get your views. senat senator sessions, should the president have consulted and sought authorization from congress for this action? >> i'm not sure he needed to have done that, but i think we could have been better briefed on it. senator levin i know and i'm sure senator mccain and kerry and lugar have gotten more briefings than the average
member ever the senate and house have gotten. but it is a factor that we know that the president has to be in contact with congress. he's now out of the country, and that probably has been less than it should have been at this point. >> i want to turn to japan. another crisis that e president is facing, of course what the japanese are dealing with. here are some of the latest facts to emerge out of the disaster, the death toll now upwards of 8,100, still so many missing. and the number of missing, well over 12,000. some signs of hope, though, incredible images coming out of japan early today as there were incredible rescues of a teenager as well as an 80-year-old grandmother who was stuck inside of her house. thankfully, those two people were rescued. but, senator levin, as the nuclear emergency continues in japan, there are real questions about the future of nuclear power in this country. after three mile island back in 1979 as a young zpat senator you
called on a moratorium for six months on nuclear power plants in the united states. should that hold true now? >> well, i think there ought to be a period here where all of our nuclear plants are tested very, very carefully to make sure that they are safe and to make sure that this cannot happen here. but i don't think that we can say that we're not going to continue to use nuclear power. europe depends heavily on it and they have found it to be safe. we use it a lot. we have found it, since three mile island, to be safe. it seems to me that the great hope that we have ultimately in terms of greenhouse gas is to move away from fossil fuels and although i think we have to be mighty careful about nuclear power we should put a lot of effort into seeing what we can do with the waste that we cannot give up on that possibility because of the climate change which is occurring from fossil fuels. >> senator kerry, about 30 seconds here, how big of a blow has nuclear power, as part of our energy mix, been dealt here? >> well, i think it's taken some hit, obviously, but i think it's
going to cause everybody to look for the failsafe methodology and what the next generation of nuclear power might or might not be. i think, you know, of equal urgency is simply responding to the demand of climate change and the need to move away from fossil fuels. the faster we build an energy grid in america that we move to solar thermal, other things i think the marketplace will make that decision for us. >> senator sessions, after the gulf oil spill, after the nuclear emergency in japan, do you think the president is capable of leading a bipartisan effort to really make energy policy a priority? and to lead to some change? >> he has to do that. he has not done that. the energy department seems to be putting out more road blocks on american energy production than actually leading in the way to produce more energy. we need more clean american energy. that is a driving force for this country right now. we're not seeing that leadership.
we've got gulf oil production blocked basically by not get geting permits, only two have been made since the oil spill. and we need to get moving. we simply cannot afford not to. >> i'm going to have to make that the last word. senators, thank you all very much. coming up -- after almost a decade of war, the u.s. military finds itself stretched thinner by yet another conflict in the middle east. what ignited saturday's decision to mobilize in libya? and what are the consequences for the u.s. and the president's legacy? our rounds table weighs in. president on the council on foreign relations richard haas, former cia director michael hayden nbc's andrea mitchell and jim miklaszewski and the "new york times'" helene cooper.
and we're back. joined now by our political round table. white house correspondent for "the new york times," helene cooper. nbc news chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell. former director. nsa, cy, michael hayden. president of the council of foreign relations, richard haas and nbc news chief pentagon correspondent, jim miklaszewski, this is a breaking story. i want to talk however, about how much is on the president's plate right now. you talk about crisis management and a confluence of crisis. we've pulled together some cover stories from "time" magazine. target gadhafi. the next one, hitting home, tripoli under attack. and the next one, meltdown.
folks, that was the spring of 1986. 25 years ago. andrea mitchell, we're back. we're covering the same issues. >> i was there 25 years ago, which is what's even more scary and i was at three mile island. when you look at the crisis management here. questions are being raised about how quickly as you heard, senator sessions raise that question. and i don't think that's just politics here. because there are all legitimate questions that international allies as well are asking about why not sooner when the rebels were ascendant. because now you really have a situation where they will deny it, because they don't have the legal authority for it. but this is regime change. there is no other option here. >> i want to get more into that. but i want to say, 25 years ago, richard haas, chernobyl was the meltdown in that "time" magazine cover. but again, confluence of crisis for any president, this is a lot to manage at one time. >> a lot to manage, but also it raises the importance of an
administration having its priorities. >> you've got a lot to manage with japan. you've got a lot to manage with the middle east. you've got a lot to manage with the united states. in terms of our economy and our deficit. one of the real questions is why are we doing as much as we're doing in libya. so many of your guests are talking about too little, too late. let me give you another idea, david, too much too late. in times of crises and multiple crises, administrations have to do triage. the to me the big problem is not what we haven't done, it's what we are doing. >> and helene cooper, as i played for the senators, president obama is clear on this, he wants gadhafi to go. and yet you heard from at mirl mullen and senator kerry saying, that's not the mission here and andrea just alluded to it. >> there's been so much ambivalence in the administration on libya. and that's because at its heart, the administration doesn't want to do this. the pentagon doesn't want to be at war with libya. they've been saying for weeks, libya is not a national security interest. there are far greater american
national security interests going on. particularly when you look at what's happening throughout the region. libya is just not -- which is why i think you've seen this sort of appearance of a completely inconsistent policy. president obama himself in announcing that we were going to be doing military strikes said at the same time he says we're going to war, says it's not going to be long, it's only going to be a few days, not weeks. you know, you definitely get this sort of push-pull type of feeling. >> and jim miklaszewski, you've covered presidents, you've covered pentagons. here was candidate obama on this program interviewed by tim russert, back in 2006. listen to this. >> and what would in your mind, define a great president? >> obviously most of the time it seems that the president has maybe 10% of his agenda set by himself and 90% of it set by circumstances. >> we're living firmly in the 90%. and leadership tests of how
he'll be defined very much by these tests. >> and to follow up on what helene said, both secretary gates at the pentagon and admiral mike mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs, gave president obama an escape hatch when it came to libya. two weeks ago, secretary gates warned that to launch any kind of air strikes impose a no-fly zone, had unintended consequences of a second and third order. david, we haven't even seen the first order consequences yet. that probably lie ahead. >> general hayden, what are your concerns and your thoughts right now as you're watching this unfold? >> i think what the folks that i serve with in the armed forces in the intelligence community are wondering is how do i know when i'm done? what constitutes accomplishing this mission? i mean we can say this is humanitarian purposes, we can say it's a no-fly zone. but in reality what we have done is intervened in a libyan civil war. we now owe a moral responsibility for the outcome. >> andrea, to your point, you
think part of that outcome is not to rest until gadhafi is gone? >> they cannot let this continue. they can't have gadhafi in charge. as the outcome of this. now we are committed. and it's very clear from the people i'm talking to inside the administration, that they expect that either his own people will get him or there will be some other way of getting him. either we get him or they get him, but he is going to be ousted. then the question becomes one that secretary clinton raised when she was a skeptic initially about this. whom are we dealing with? who are these rebels? what kind of vacuum have we created? this has some analogy to what happened when we disbanded the baath army. and if gadhafi is arming everyone you're going to have street fighting, hand-to-hand combat in libya. >> richard, you have broad concerns as you penned a piece in the "wall street journal" this month that the u.s. should keep out of libya. >> we're talking about 2% of the world's oil. yes, there's a humanitarian situation on, but at the risk of seeming a bit cold, it's not a
humanitarian crisis on the scale of say, rwanda. we don't have 100 million people, innocent men, women and children whose lives are threatened. this is a civil war. and civil wars, people get killed, unfortunately. we shouldn't kid ourselves, this is not a humanitarian intervention, it's a u.s. military intervention. several people have pointed out what is steb b? whether gadhafi complies with what we want or resists, either way we're going to be stuck with the aftermath of essentially having it take ownership of libya with others. and just because others are willing to share in something, doesn't make it a better policy. it just means the costs are going to be distributed. but the policy itself is seriously flawed. >> helene, the piece that you broke ground with in the "times" yesterday, we'll put the headline up on the screen, in terms of the role of the secretary of state, not the "l.a. times," but "the new york times," talking about the
secretary of state clinton's role really driving this. what changed here internally? there's the headline shest by clinton helped persuade the president to take a harder line. >> i hink there was a number of factors. and i think rwanda did have something to do with it. because you had secretary clinton, who was first lady during the rwanda genocide and whose husband has said that not intervening is one of his biggest regrets. susan rice, the africa adviser at the time, had a lot of rwanda history there. and you had this sort of very unlikely combination, alliance between the two, along with samantha power, a top a human rights advocate. in a lot of ways, the girls took on the guys. the you had gates on the other hand and the pentagon saying look -- >> and mullen. >> and mullen. you could see from the interview with mullen, how much, you know. but they, once the arab league over the weekend sort of swung behind, there have been so many things nobody expected with the
libya case. nobody thought the arab league would come and say yes, we want a no-fly zone as well. once the arab league did and the obama administration was faced with the specter of possibly seeing on tv, the slaughter in benghazi. hillary clinton got during a meeting in paris, in the paris hotel room on tuesday, met with the uae leader and he agreed to pledge arab, arab troops and arab fighter pilots to the cause. and at that point she sort of flipped over and that started the switch for obama. but he still doesn't seem to be, his heart doesn't seem to be really in it. >> and i think as helene has reported, clinton was driving this because of what she was hearing from the allies as well. susan rice, did a remarkable job at the u.n. no one could have predicted, even critics of the policy could not predict such a muscular resolution being approved and the abstensions from russia and china. this came much faster than
anybody expected. and it came with some very adept diplomacy. >> the no-nye zone should not be the focus? >> look. it wasn't the libyan air force that was casting problems. the preponderance of ground power that gadhafi could bring to ber. so stopping them flying doesn't stop anything. i found it striking that your reporter said that the reaction of the opposition to this was, they're putting their helmets back on and going back on the offensive. what kind of dilemma, policiwise does that present us with. if now it's the opposition on the move, taking on gadhafi's forces? >> a quick break, we're going to come back and talk about this and some of the bigger questions of what during its first year, the humpback calf and its mother are almost inseparable. she lifts her calf to its first breath of air, then protects it on the long journey to their feeding grounds.
richard haas, let me pick up with you. the issue that was on the table is, what if now the opposition feels emboldened and they're now on the move and civil war starts again? what position does that put us in? >> that's exactly what's going to happen. we don't know what the political agenda of these people are. the tribal makeup of libya is so complex i hope the people making the decisions in administration have a real feel for what is going on and what are going to be the political agendas of the people we may be empowering now. the one thing we know is this thing now has a new lease on life. what might have burned out is now going to, if you will, be rekindled. this is now go tock a prolonged civil war and at some point we're going to have sto decide new forms of intervention. it's not going to stop here, david. it are's not going end with the united states doing some aircraft runs. this is going to require ultimately the administration says it doesn't want, bootds on the ground. someone is going to have to
provide that kind of involvement in libya because this a country that is going to be fundamentally divided with places where people are killing each other and places the government is not in control. >> jim miklaszewski, see iraq, afghanistan, eight and ten years respectively. in iraq, this was supposed to be in, greeted like liberators and we were gloing to leave. >> as yogi berra would say, deja vu all over again. to tear down a couple of facades quickly, one that this is about a no-fly zone, it's not. as a matter of fact, u.s. air force f-15s and f-16s today were over libya with the express purpose of attacking libyan ground forces, which they did. and yesterday admiral gortney said this is all about protecting civilians and opt decision forces which gets us in the middle of the civil war richard was just talking about. and finally this premise that this is a coalition effort right now it's all u.s. it's u.s. commanded, u.s. led,
u.s. military. and when admiral mullen was talking about handing over command to the coalition, i was told, number one, we're really not in any hurry to do that, and, number two, it could be an american commander. >> general hayden, i had a member of the bush administration say to me, candidly, look, can you imagine if car cozy was in power in 2002 as we were starting the iraq war? you really have the french and british leading on this as the senators pointed out, the arab league swinging behind this here. it would be difficult, gadhafi may try, to make this a unilateral u.s. effort here. >> no. i don't think anyone is saying we should. let's look aat why people are doing these things. the arab league move was rema remarkable. this is about cold, hard facts. this is about mass migration. our eerp enfriends have a direct interest they have to protect. it's no wonder they had a greater sense of urgency than we did. >> helene, you look at what's happening throughout the middle east, revolution throughout the
middle east. for this president, for this administration, you have to ask, what are the big ideas and are we getting the big ideas right? >> that's such a great question. people are always raising the question, who are the strategic thinkersithin this administration? i think when people ask the question of who actually drives american foreign policy in the administration, at the end of the day it's obama. that i think is sort of really interesting, but they're in such a weird position right now because you're seeing this inconsistency. we're going after gadhafi but we're not doing it in bahrain. you see what happened, how long it took in egypt. we were very quick in tunisia, then yemen. you've got where we have a lot of counterterrorism concerns in yemen as well. one of the really interesting debates that came forward on the libya front was when john brennan, president obama's terrorism adviser, raised the issue of the fact that a lot of these libyan rebels have ties to al qaeda al qaeda put out a
statement on thursday saying they were with the libyan opposition. >> the big ideas, are we getting them right? >> mike mullen said the biggest single national security problem is our economy. this will not make it better. instead we're ignoring a previous secretary of state john quincy adams someone you haven't had on the show in a while, we're going abroad in search of monsters to destroy. there's any number of monsters but is this right now something that strategically necessary and vital for the united states, given all that's happening in places like egypt, bahrain, audi arabia, around the world, all we need to repair at home? i would think the answer is not. this a's the idea the administration is missing. it's not enough to simply want to do good wherever we see bad. we've got to ask where can we do good against what cost? >> andrea, it's values versus interests. >> the problem that the president has in projecting american values is that he first of all believes in a multi lat ras policy. on that score, he has really accomplished that.
this was pretty remarkable bringing this whole coalition together and getting the arab league. but the problem of american interest is not resolved. our interest, as has been said, lies in bahrain and saudi arabia and there is the conflict that i think we're about to face. bahrain, it's already in the streets. saudi arabia repressed, and paid off by economic interest dmes dickally. but that's the crisis. you'll have leadership changes there with the aging leadership of sooner rather than later, and concern that what's happening in libya could also destabilize egypt and tunisia and what gains are being made. >> where is president obama this weekend? he's in south america. we have pictures of him arriving in brazil. a lot of questions, jim mi miklaszews miklaszewski, about the president's leadership passivity in the face of japan or libya, perhaps in the latter case that's been erased given what he's ordered here. but here he is riding out this initial weekend in brazil? he wasn't even the one to announce the beginning of
hostilities. >> it's clear the white house has tried to distance itself of being in the lead of the political and diplomatic surge to send u.s. forces and a coalition into libya. but i can tell you that, in all the discussions with senior u.s. military and pentagon officials, they say that president obama is very engaged and his first inclination appeared to follow the advice of the sec def gates and admiral mullen to stay out. >> bad idea dpor him to be out of the country? >> i think there's a lot to be said for not insulting the entire region with china advancing its economic interests in latin america, but i think they could have found a better way to announce it rather than being caught in a joint statement with the brazilian president and not saying something aggressively. >> we'll leave it there. before we go, a quick programming note. stay with nbc and msnbc through